Q & A With Maulana Wahidudin Khan On Zikrullah, or Remembrance of God
Q: When it is said that one should remember God at every moment, how exactly does one do it? Suppose one is busy doing something: say, eating one’s meal or going for a walk or driving a vehicle. If one’s mind is on God at every moment during this process, will it not distract one from the task one is doing? So, in this context, how can one be engaged in zikr of God all the time?
A: Remembering God at all times does not mean remembering Him every moment it means most of the moments. There will be some moments in which you are engaged in other things, but those even this may also lead, in an indirect manner, to the remembrance of God.
Q: Please explain, with the help of one or two examples say, of going for a stroll or washing one’s clothes how one can both focus on the work one is doing and at the same time engage in God’s zikr or remember God at every moment while being engaged in the particualar activity one is engaged in.
A: It is very simple to remember God, and also quite natural. For instance, when you are walking, you are doing so entirely because of the blessings of God. God is providing you sunlight, He is supplying you with oxygen and air. Also, it is He who has caused the gravitational attraction of the earth to enable you to walk, and so on. Without these Divine blessings, you cannot walk on earth. If you realize these Divine bounties and connect them with God, then you are remembering God. Similarly, when you are washing your clothes, it is due to Divine blessings that you able to do so. The water that you use is supplied by God, the cotton that makes up your clothes, the soap through which you clean, etc., all have been provided by God. If you reflect on these bounties of God and connect them with God, then you are remembering God.
Remembering God is not alien to your being. It is interwoven in your being, like energy is. You and energy are apparently separate, but in fact both are one and the same. So, every moment there are bounties of God present around you. If you awaken in yourself this consciousness and connect what you see or experience with God, then you are remembering God.
Q: Please explain the Prophet’s way of zikr of God. Was he engaged in this zikr every moment of his life as a prophet? If so, then please explain how he did this continuous remembrance of God even while busy in so many tasks e.g. dawah, teaching his Companions, spending time with his family, etc.
A: The rophet’s wife Ayesha reports about the Prophet: Kana an-nabiyu yazkurullah ala kulli ahyanihi. (Source: Bukhari) It shows that the Prophet used to remember God on each occasion by making it a point of reference for God’s remembrance. So, for the Prophet, zikrullah and other tasks were not two separate activities. Rather, both were intermingled.
Q: When it is said that we should make every occasion an occasion for remembering God, does that mean we must focus on the present the present occasion and then use that as a means to reflect on and thank and praise God?
A: Zikr means living with divine consciousness. When you have attained this state of consciousness, every moment you will be in a state of zikr, even though you may not be uttering any specific words.
Q: Suppose I am going for a stroll. I try and keep my mind in the present, not allowing it to stray off into the past or the future. So, I focus on, say, my feet, thanking and praising God for my feet. I focus on the trees I see, praising God for them. I see the birds and I praise God for having created such beautiful beings. Is this also a means of making the occasions we face an opportunity to remember God? Is this a good method of zikr?
Yes, this is a right way of zikrullah.
Q: Often, I find myself thinking of the past (mainly negative feelings, thoughts) and sometimes, the future, too. My mind is dragged away from the present. What are the teachings of Islam about this?
If I have had some negative experience in the past, when I recall it today, I convert it into an item of shukr, or thankfulness to God, because, God didn’t let me stay on in that negative moment and made me reach a better situation today.
Q: When one’s mind is not engaged in any task and one is free, do you suggest any specific words or phrases that we should repeat in order to do zikr of God?
A: When your feelings are moulded in the form of words, that is what constitutes zikr. When your own divine feelings take expression in words, that is zikr. These words could be in your own mother tongue or in the Arabic language.